Monday, October 29, 2007

New version of the GIMP (2.40)

The GIMP is a powerful photo editing program - equal to PhotoShop, more or less, but with a different interface. There is a new version out, which adds some nice features (see link below), and a new visual theme. If you don't have PhotoShop, get the GIMP!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Canon PowerShot SD870 review

The newest PowerShot in Canon's super-compact line is the SD870is. Unlike most of the SD line, it doesn't have a optical viewfinder. It's sized about the same as the SD850is, and has a 3.8x zoom lens. It's rated at 270 shots (CIPA), which is not so great given that there's no optical viewfinder, so you can't use the camera without the LCD on. The price is $309 from amazon.

Picture quality looks pretty good - if anything the corner blurriness is less on this camera than previous Powershots, though I have yet to do a detailed comparison.

DP Review - positive review, some spec oriented tests and real-world pictures.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Further price drop on SD 850IS

Amazon now has it for $264, or $234 if you sign up for a credit card.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Canon Powershot A570 IS

The A570IS is a slightly larger camera that uses AAs, and has a very low price ($165 at amazon). It's bigger than the Powershot 850IS, at 3.52 x 2.53 x 1.69 in (most notably 0.7in thicker).

The specs:

CIPA: 400 shots using 2 AA NiMH batteries (900 with LCD off).

4x zoom lens, noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle, but only very minimal corner blurring.

2.5" LCD, 115k pixels, and a optical viewfinder as well.

The light sensitively looks pretty good, with relatively low-noise images up to iso 400, and very little noise reduction applied, which means that decent detail is seen even at iso 400.

Optical image stabilization, which DP review says works quite well.


Not compact enough for me, but if that's not so important to you this sounds like an excellent bargain.

Positive review at dp review, with lots of good spec oriented tests.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New review for Sony W80

The W80 has been around a while, but DP review (one of the best spec-oriented sites) just posted their review. They note several problems:

Battery life didn't hold up to the CIPA rating of 340 shots per charge - they found it was closer to 200 shots. They were unimpressed with image stabilization (in general, not just with this camera. I think this is rather unfair, and I'm not sure where they are coming from). They also complain about the over-noise reduction that the camera applies above ISO 100 (but as I've said, this is less of an issue if you shoot at 5 MP). They also note the corner blur issue. Most damming to them, however, is that indoor performance is quite poor - the ISO goes too high, and focus is very slow.

Interestingly, they have a side by side comparison page with the Canon SD800, much like I've been doing with the SD850. To my eyes, the W80 won.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Amazon price drop again

Canon SD850 $282
Sony W80 $199

At this rate the price is dropping every couple days.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Best price on the SD 850IS

Amazon has dropped the price to $286, and seems to be dropping the price at roughly $10/week. Likely they will sell out and quit carrying the camera. Note: amazon is also running a $30 off bonus if you sign up for a "small business" credit card - not sure what the requirements are to qualify, but if you do the price is only $256!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Best deal on the Sony w80

Currently the best deal on the Sony w80 is $200, direct from sony, if you are willing to sign up for a credit card in the processes. Just put the $220 camera in the shopping cart, and another $80 in accessories (such as a big memory card) and go thru the checkout process. At the point they want to you enter your name and address they will offer you a credit card signup that will give you $100 off. If you don't like credit card shenanigans, then amazon has it for $210. But then you won't get $80 worth of accessories...

canon sd850 vs sony w80: revisted

People have complained about the soft looking images that the Sony w80 puts out, likely due to high noise reduction in the camera. Nobody has really made the same complaint about the SD850. So just out of curiosity, I decided to do a little A/B testing on test photos taken in good lighting from Digital Imaging's website. Though test shots did look different, the difference was pretty minimal.

Furthermore, these test shots were taken at 7+ megapixels, whereas I have previously argued that 4 mega pixels all that's really needed. If you resize the images down to 4 megapixels, I found they looked even sharper (unsurprising), and that there was even less evidence that the Sony camera was soft compared to the Canon.

I also looked at images taken with higher ISO (simulating a low-light situation) from DC resources. Here I just looked at the images resized down to 1280x1024. The Sony W80 clearly looked better. At that size, there was an equal amount of detail in the images, but the Sony had much more pleasant color. At full zoom, however, it was true that the SD850 did better in fine detail (such as allowing you to read fine print that was obscured by the W80). But you'll never see those fine details unless you crop your photos or zoom in on detail when viewing them on your monitor.

Conclusion: the Sony W80 may be a better buy than the online reviews suggest.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lighten your photos without blowing out the highlights

If you have a picture with really dramatic lighting differences (say half the image is in sunlight, and the other in shadow), then with normal tools it's very hard to make the dark part visible without ruining the bright part. What you need is a way to selectively brighten the darkest part of the image. The newer versions of PhotoShop have a tool for this, but if you don't have that, there is a free alternative that you can use online which may work even better:


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100

This $400 camera, like almost ever camera sold by Panasonic has image stabilization, but no optical view finder. Other important specs:

3.6X zoom lens, wide angle (28mm equiv), with quite blurry corners at wide angle

CIPA: 320 shots per charge.

size: 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. (0.2in longer than the SD850).

It looks like a reasonably nice camera, with a reasonable CIPA given it doesn't have a optical viewfinder. But like all the other wide angle cameras I've looked at, it has relatively poor optics at wide angle. Image stabilization is nice, but there are lots of other cameras which have this feature. Odly the camera doesn't support USB 2.0, so downloading all those 12 megapixel images is going to take forever.

DCRP review- mildly positive; they complain of high ISO noise, and the fact that it's kind of expense. Instead they suggest looking at a lower megapixel camera from Panasonic, such as the DMC-FX33 or DMC-FX55 instead.

Canon SD950 reviews

There are two new reviews of the SD850 from Canon.

PhotoBlog - positive review, with some good sample pix. They note that the biggest problem they saw was relatively high noise at ISO 400. The review has no discussion of edge blurriness or other lens distortion.

Steve's Digicams - positive review, but very short on details that can't be found in the press release. Steve claims minimal lens distortion and edge blurriness, but has no test pictures to back up his statement. Indeed, this real world shot from his review does show corner blurriness, though it's not an ideal shot to test for this.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Eliminate dead space in your photos

Here's a really cool online tool that lets you resize you photos by removing the repetitive or empty portions of the image - automatically! It's a lot of fun to play with and the resulting images look remarkably natural. You can also tell it to remove specific parts of the image as it resizes, which often doesn't look as natural, but still works remarkably well.

It's a flash program @

Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd

Lest you think I only follow Canon products, here is some info on a Fujifilm camera. Fujifilm has an interesting feature - they call it a "supperCCD", where super means super sensitive. The idea is that high ISO shots still look pretty good, in terms of noise level, reducing the need for image stabilization. How well does it work? Well, the camera does better than a typical compact at the same ISO, but from the test shots I have seen it does not appear to be as good as image stabilization in low light.

The Fujifilm FinePix Z5fd is much cheaper than the Canon cameras with IS, however - $165 at amazon. It's also 0.2in thiner than the SD850, at 3.6x2.2x0.8in. Compared to the SD850 the corner blur is much less at wide angle(compare 1 & 2), and the lens distortion is virtually nonexistent. But the deal breaker, for me, is that it has no optical viewfinder and the shots per charge (CIPA) is only 200. Canon's CIPA usually isn't much higher with LCD on, but will go up to 500 range with LCD off.

Here is Imaging Resource's review. Given the downsides to this camera I don't expect to collect more reviews.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A book for the Gimp

I've previously recommended the Gimp; a free alternative to PhotoShop that runs under most OSes. The only downside to the Gimp is it doesn't try to clone the PhotoShop interface, which means the learning curve is steeper than it could be. But there's a good book that can help with the learning curve, for much less than a copy of PhotoShop itself will set you back.

GIMP 2 for Photographers: $20 at amazon.

Book review here

Monday, October 1, 2007

Canon SD850 IS powershot - lowest safe price

It looks like the cheapest price for the SD850 is $280 (free shipping) from (you have to sign up for a credit card, for a $30 discount).

There are other sources, but all at suspiciously low prices which will likely evaporate if you don't purchase several high-prices accessories when they call you back to "confirm your order". You can always check epinions before you buy from a place with a too good to be true price - likely you'll find there is a reason why the price is $50 less than everybody else charges.